Restaurant Profile: The Peak on Salem

The Cheerwine-braised pork belly appetizer is served with cabbage hominy, radish and
corn ragout and smoked savoy slaw.

Cornerstone buildings usually don’t stay closed for long.

When Peak City Grill was shuttered in mid-2019, downtown Apex lost its most prominent upscale restaurant. Thankfully, Dave and Helen Burrell promptly entered the scene and revived the historic property late last year. The new proprietors renamed the eatery The Peak on Salem.

“We enjoyed coming to the previous restaurant in this century-old building and have been in love with it and downtown for a long time,” said Helen Burrell, a Cary resident for 30 years.

What’s not to love? Constructed in 1905, the building features elevated tin ceilings, antique hardwood flooring, old-fashioned stained-glass windows and exposed brick walls rich in character. Eclectic metal sculptures add a nice touch of modern flair to the predominantly vintage vibe.

While not much has changed in the physical space, the Burrells did make a significant adjustment in the kitchen. Executive Chef Sedrick Corbin-Bailey joined the Peak roster earlier this year and has ushered in Southern contemporary cuisine that changes with the seasons.

Sedrick Corbin-Bailey, executive chef at The Peak on Salem, enjoys reinventing classic dishes at the Southern contemporary restaurant.

“My intention is to prepare food that looks beautiful and tastes delicious,” said Corbin-Bailey, a winsome Holly Springs native who attended Cary High School. “My father was a chef, so I started cooking at an early age.”

Corbin-Bailey has worked in Raleigh-area kitchens ranging from Don Murray’s Barbecue and Seafood back in the day to Gravy and Second Empire more recently. Nowadays, he enjoys putting an inventive spin on classic dishes at his current culinary enclave.

Creole Shrimp and Grits is made with sweet potatoes, smoked gouda cheese, scallions, pimento peppers and tasso ham gravy.

Take, for instance, the transcendent Cheerwine-braised pork belly appetizer. Served with cabbage hominy, radish and corn ragout, and smoked savoy slaw, the dish is as well composed as anything else on the entire menu.

Then there’s the signature twice-buttered cornbread.

“This is my grandmother’s special recipe,” the chef said with a broad smile. “We fold clarified butter into the mix and then add more butter when it comes out of the oven.”

For dessert, the gluten-free lemon custard tart is topped with seasonal berries.

Among the nearly half dozen fresh salads on the menu, the Green Goddess with mandarin oranges, shaved Brussels sprouts, crumbled goat cheese, cherry tomatoes and garbanzo beans stands out.

“It was inspired by my sister, who is a vegetarian,” said Corbin-Bailey. “The dressing has no mayo or egg in it, so it’s very herbaceous, light and fresh.”

You’ll have a tough time selecting just one main course from the list of Chef’s Compositions. Consider ordering the Creole Shrimp and Grits permeated with sweet potatoes, smoked gouda cheese, scallions, pimento peppers and tasso ham gravy.

“Once you try it, you’ll experience a flavor explosion in your mouth,” the chef said.

Seared sea scallops are served atop Moroccan couscous, shiitake mushrooms, maple-poached sweet potatoes, wine-infused pears, corn, roasted red peppers and lemon-dill beurre blanc. The dish is sized to share, but don’t be surprised if you end up vying for the last bite.

Additional entrees worthy of relishing include a bone-in pork chop with apple and pear chutney; Mama’s Meatloaf crowned with mushroom gravy; and country fried chicken served alongside sweet potato puree, four-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese and bacon-braised collard greens.

“I love using locally sourced items whenever possible,” Corbin-Bailey said, while giving a nod to purveyors like Wolfberry Hawthorn Farm in Durham, LL Urban Farms in Raleigh and Fox Farm & Forage in Apex. “We want everything to be really pure.”

When the server tempts you with dessert, oblige by choosing from a focused assortment of house-made delicacies created by pastry chef Zachary Castle. If it’s available when you visit, order the gluten-free lemon custard tart topped with sliced seasonal berries. Pair it with a cup of French press coffee from Morrisville’s Muddy Dog Roasting Company.

When it comes to libations, don’t overlook the Salem St. Classic Martini, with blue cheese olives; a Tequila Bee’s Knees with lemon juice, cranberry juice and honey; or any of a dozen locally brewed beers on draft.

Start off the week with “Mini Monday at The Peak,” where from 4-8 p.m. you’ll find drink specials along with bar bites like fried oysters, blackened chicken wings and Peak Bleu Chips, a popular holdover from the previous restaurant’s menu. If you’re lucky, you can score a fried catfish sandwich and a slice of pecan pie a la mode.

Seared sea scallops are served atop Moroccan couscous, shiitake mushrooms, maple-poached sweet potatoes, pears, corn and roasted red peppers, and drizzled with lemon-dill beurre blanc.

Prefer takeout? Pick up a customizable family meal that serves two, four or six people and includes choice of protein, two sides and cornbread. Half gallons of tea and bottles of wine also are obtainable to carry away. Just remember to place your order at least one hour in advance.

Reservations are available online and by phone. A small patio provides an al fresco dining option, but those tables get snatched up quickly. Private dining areas are accessible for group gatherings. Check the restaurant’s website for hours of operation.

126 North Salem St., Apex
(919) 446-6060

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